Resilient Communities and Shelter Relief

Timothy Stats graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2004 with a Bachelor of Planning and Design and a Bachelor of Architecture. He has returned to the University community this year to undertake a Master of Construction Management. We caught up with Timothy to find out where his career has taken him so far…and the answer – all over the world.

Following a number of years working in private architecture firms, Timothy found his passion in the humanitarian sector. He currently works at the Australian Red Cross and specialises in shelter relief.

Tim's interest in broader geographical contexts stems from his time studying and working in Copenhagen, on exchange as part of his bachelor degree.  He was intrigued by the variety of architectural issues and new cultural context he was exposed to and, from there, was eager to pursue other international opportunities.

Tim spent 18 months working in Timor assisting the National Red Cross Society of Timor-Leste rehabilitate their branch offices around the districts of the mountainous countryside. This experience gave Tim a chance to be involved in a very holistic way in the entire planning and design process.

“I really enjoyed working more on some basic types of shelters or infrastructure, using skills I learnt at the universities, but adapting them to meet a new range of needs and concerns," Tim said. "The new experiences complemented the more formal education.”

More recently, Tim travelled as an aid worker to Mozambique to provide rapid assessment of needs following cyclone damage which devastated villages across the region. Tim was working with broken communities, with up to 40 per cent of houses damaged in some villages – an enormous strain on the community.  Tim was faced with the stark reality of disaster relief.

“After one community meeting a woman burst into a thank you song and everyone started singing in a language which I didn’t understand, but also with quite a lot of energy, it was quite overwhelming. It was quite humbling.”

Tim and his fellow aid workers operate across three phases of shelter relief; supporting affected communities own efforts to provide emergency relief, transitional shelters, and recovery and resilience.

"It is satisfying to know the work I am doing is contributing in some way to assisting to improve the quality of life for people faced with such distressing situations," Tim says.

Earlier this year Timothy tutored in the Humanitarian Construction course at Melbourne School of Design and sees education playing a significant role in the future of the industry.

"There is a gap between humanitarian and private sector architecture and my goal is to bridge the gap; to take the things each sector does well and find a better way of working." Tim explains. "I don't believe I could gain the skills necessary to do this in the field, at least not as efficiently as through further study."

In addition to his University study, Tim has undertaken training run by the Australian Red Cross and Shelter Technical training run by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Specialists in emergency and shelter relief are vital to creating resilient communities worldwide. There is also an increased demand in architecture schools for relief education among students who are benefiting greatly from tutors like Tim guiding their way.